Customers no longer consider configuration special: They expect it. This expectation applies both to simple goods like t-shirts or yoghurt and to sophisticated products composed of heterogeneous hardware and software like cars or ships. The software product line community has contributed to making the software configuration of such products more robust and efficient. Yet, despite those efforts, some challenges remain open. This keynote will bring to light some of those challenges by answering the question: What is research in software product line engineering not solving in configuration?

The first part of the keynote will look at one massive supplier of products engineered from heterogeneous material and digital artefacts: The semiconductor industry. In this first part, I will present some configuration challenges faced when I moved to the semiconductor industry to which my research background had no out-of-box solution. Through examples, I will highlight (1) how practical challenges can be rooted in working hypotheses, and (2) which research avenues those challenges open.

The second part of the keynote takes some altitude to stare at two emergent configuration challenges. First, the once distinct line between hardware and software, developing and manufacturing, building and installing is blurring. As products embed more and more software, the need to integrate application and product lifecycle management (ALM and PLM) tools is pressing. I will illustrate how the weak integration of ALM and PLM tools can affect lead time and product quality. Secondly, the ubiquity of software in products, coupled with shrinking globalization product lifecycles, reshapes communication between parts, products, companies, and end-users. This change blurs yet another solid line: The line between product engineering and operations. Here again, I will point out why ALM, PLM, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool vendors struggle to keep up with the pace of the demand from companies. Those two challenges fall under the umbrella of popular themes known as cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, or the fourth industrial revolution, a.k.a. Industry 4.0.

The challenges posed by Industry 4.0 are likely to become strong drivers for software product line engineering. Indeed, smart sensors and adaptive software are the foundation stones for the new industrial revolution. Not only will those technologies be embedded in innumerable devices, but they will also have to guarantee unmatched reliability and security levels in versatile environments. The keynote will conclude with an open window on those perspectives.

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